LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN -- With four consecutive winning seasons behind them, plus a conference regular season title last year, the Covenant women's tennis team looks to maintain high standards in 2018.
The spring season will begin on Friday, Feb. 9 with a home match against Birmingham Southern. The match was moved up a day from its original date due to expected rain on Saturday.
Last season, head coach John Hirte's team claimed a USA South West Division title after storming through conference play with a 7-0 record. Backed by that title, and a 17-match regular season win streak against USA South foes, the Lady Scots were once again picked as the preseason favorite in the league's annual coaches' poll heading into this season.
The strength of the program over the last four years has been depth and consistency up and down the lineup and the ingredients are there for that to be the case once again this year.
Senior Aly Hall leads a talented group of returners for the Lady Scots. Hall played at the No. 1 singles spot all of last season and tallied 10 wins en route to being named to the All-USA South and All-West Division first teams. Fellow seniors Annie DeLuca and Jennie Spielman also return. DeLuca is a three-time All-USA South selection after compiling a 6-1 conference record in singles play and teaming with Spielman to go 13-7 in doubles on the year.
Sophomore Esther Eddy looks to build on an outstanding rookie season. Eddy was second on the team with 14 singles wins and had 12 doubles victories, including 10 with Hall at the top spot in the lineup.
Returners that could see more time in the lineup, in either singles or doubles, are senior Mackenzie Jones, junior Masha Lanska, and sophomore Morgan McCain. The recruiting class for Hirte brought in a pair of freshmen in Mariah Westra and Kayla Brown who could also see time and make an impact on the court.
It is another challenging non-conference schedule for Hirte's crew, but that should prepare Covenant well for the USA South. The Lady Scots face regional powers Birmingham Southern (Feb. 9), Oglethorpe (March 1), Berry (April 4) and Sewanee (April 10) during the season. Sewanee is currently ranked No. 6 in the ITA regional rankings entering the spring.
Covenant will also venture to Orlando, Fla., for a brief spring break trip. The Lady Scots face Otterbein on March 5, then Emerson and Muhlenberg on March 6 before returning to Lookout Mountain.
Conference play begins on March 16 at Maryville. Covenant will host conference matches against Piedmont (March 20), Huntingdon (March 30) and LaGrange (March 31).
The USA South Tournament will start on April 13 in LaGrange, Ga., as a part of the USA South Spring Sports Festival, hosted by the City of LaGrange and Troup County. The tournament will take place both at the McCluskey Tennis Center and the LaGrange College Varsity Courts. The top four teams from each division will advance to the tournament.
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